Photographs copyright Pierre Bessard 2007 published by TimeZone 8
China’s spectacular industrial growth has also created a massive need for industrial infrastructure; a key consumable commodity is their electrical power grid. Pierre Bessard was invited to photograph the industrial workers who toil away at producing some of the largest hydro-eclectic equipment in the world that are being installed in the new massive dams being build in China. The portraits are of those who constitute the factory’s shop floor; mechanics, machinist, engineers and supervisor foremen.
The actual work that these individuals perform is indirectly implied by the large equipment looming in the background, the hand-tools in their grasp and the type and condition of the garments they wear.
Bessard’s subjects intently gaze directly into the photographer’s lens, creating a connection with the photographer and subsequently with us, the viewer. They are aware of the photographers presence and that their likeness is being captured, probably requested to stop for their portrait in the middle of their work day. It appears that the work that his subjects perform is hard and dirty, perhaps even with some element of danger if not performed with skill. Studying their stance and expression, they appear determined. This is a mini cultural portrait study in black & white, a theme and documentary style which has it heritage harkening back to the photographic work of August Sander.
These industrial portraits are interwoven with close-up details of the industrial components that are the by-product of the work performed by the subjects. The machine parts photographs are tightly framed and are abstract in their lines and masses of grays.
As an object, this book is a pleasure to hold and read, from the linen covered hardbound book with the tipped-in front cover image with a matching linen slipcase cover, to some of the heaviest pages that I have held in some time. There is no bleed through or ghosting of the images from opposites sides of these pages. The text is in French, Chinese and English, with the interview essays of the subjects by Eric Meyer.
Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook
Other photobooks by Pierre Bessard reviewed on The PhotoBook: Wuhan Boiler Comany Workers